Italian Diplomacy in the Global Era by Giuseppe Baldocci
The craft of diplomat has distant origins, accompanying the unfolding of historic events, and it is therefore understandable that even Italian diplomats see their own roots and traditions as a heritage to be preserved and to transmit to the new generations.
Our reference point, our mandate, remains the same. It is to defend our country’s national interests in the widest, most comprehensive sense of the word. We are therefore a support to Italy’s endeavours wherever they may take place and for our fellow citizens wherever they are.
At the same time, as diplomats, we feel called upon to represent Italy’s values in the world. All great nations, particularly those with ancient civilisations and traditions, have values to uphold as well as interests to defend. For us, the first vision of the relationship between peoples based on respect for cultures, collaboration in all fields, and security to be achieved through firmness but also through dialogue. Finally, it is our duty to ensure that Italy’s matches up to its reality of political democracy, economic creativity and cultural vitality that is not always projected externally as we would desire.
If these are the basic, ongoing contents of the task of diplomacy, all we have to do is to look around to understand the concrete methodology used today in carrying out these important functions. It is a methodology based on collaboration with full respect for the prerogatives and mandates of each of all the country’s complex components. Today, we recognise that, in contrast to the past, international relations cover almost every branch of government and society. And given the impact that business activity has on the country’s development and on employment, it places a pre-eminent role. The role of Parliament is also crucial. In a democracy, Parliament must specifically define the national interests that diplomacy is called upon to defend based on the Government’s indications, using its experience and professional expertise. Another component of Italy’s international relations particularly given the recent evolution of our constitutional system is the growing economic and cultural role of the Regions. Here, closer ties will be developed with diplomacy, which is called up to support their new role, providing the needed information and coordination in a vision of the nation’s interests as a whole.
Therefore, while it is true that Italian diplomacy can legitimately be proud of its traditions, today, our biggest challenge is primarily an accelerated transformation that demands a constant, difficult, but utterly necessary process of adaptation of our cultural and structural approach to problems.
There is certainly no need to insist on the often extraordinary, accelerated transformation of the international framework. In particular, we should recall globalisation, an oft-attacked and more frequently demonised dimension inasmuch as the substance of the phenomenon is seldom examined. Surmounting barriers and distance (some have even spoken of the end of geography) is clearly positive in terms of freedom, knowledge, and the abolition of segmented, and therefore inevitably backward and stagnant, ways of conceiving of human society.
Nonetheless and on this, the criticism of certain aspects of globalisation are not only legitimate, but also a useful stimulus for action we are also witnessing the often disruptive transmission of negative phenomena from one point of the globe to another. We are seeing the effects of financial crises, pollution of the environment, and terrible epidemic illnesses, first of all AIDS.
And what should we say about the new threats to our security? The images of 11 September 2001 continue to strike at our consciousness, and not only because of the horrible, unacceptable butchery of innocent human lives in a country to which we are tied by friendship as well as alliance. That day we are became aware of the alarming vulnerability we all, countries and individuals, face with a terrorism which sees everything and everyone is a targets. Italian diplomacy has been making its own contribution to what has emerged as the most pressing need: systematic and more effective collaboration at both a bilateral and multilateral level. Our aim is both to identify and dismantle terrorist networks and to strike at those areas of cross-national illegality, ranging from drug and arms trafficking to illicit financing, which we know is closely tied to the terrorist threat. This type of collaboration is also aimed at defining a strategy to prevent the situations that feed the phenomena that we are trying to fight.
However, these new threats to security regrettably do not substitute the previous menaces. There is also an additional type of threat: situations of internal conflict that can produce terrible consequences, tensions between bordering countries with the risk that they will even inflate into a nuclear confrontation, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These threats require a modern national defence capacity, confirmation of the validity of that Atlantic alliance that is still the cornerstone of our security, along with the construction of a European capacity that allows us to prevent and manage crises with adequate military instruments.
Thus, security. A security that in the conception of Italian diplomacy includes all those international actors willing to contribute to stability. This is the heart of the idea that led to that meeting at Pratica di Mare which, thanks to the initiative of Italy and the personal attention of our Prime Minister, underscored the final, definitive end of the Cold War era. Not only has the Cold War come to a close, but at the end of a decade of transition it has been substituted by a new phase in which Russia is also making an indispensable contribution to the function of security of the Atlantic Alliance.
REGIONAL STABILITY AND NATIONAL SECURITYParticularly over recent years, an interaction of operations between diplomacy and the defence structure has reached high levels of effectiveness and has proved very successful, chiefly in the Balkans. The fact that our diplomats and defence forces have shown that they can cooperate and interact to guarantee regional stability and national security is a gratifying demonstration of their ability to renew their methods of operation and, I would say, their traditional professional culture.
Against this background, the task of diplomacy is both extremely complex and crucial. At the very moment when we are engaged in defending national interests, we must make a vital contribution to world governance. This governance is made up of a thickly woven network of negotiations, rules and institutions, without which the pursuit of national interest would be transformed into an infinite series of irrational and dangerous of confrontation, controversy and clashes.
Thanks to the process of European integration, the world has become familiar with a stronger, more convincing alternative to intentional relations based on rivalry and useless games. This is an alternative to which Italy with honour and gratitude towards to the EU’s great founding fathers continues to contribute as leading actor, just as it has in the past. This is a new concept of relations between nations, founded on a convergence of interests and values to be translated into new institutional goals (More Europe, as per the slogan of the recent EU Presidency of our good friend Spain), pursuing great ideals thanks concrete processes to deal with the issues of the economy and society. It seems to us very important that, in its search for instruments to escape the terrible grip of war and underdevelopment, Africa decided, with the creation of the African Union, to use the experience of Europe as a clear reference point for its own process of integration. The European Union also looks out onto the world with growing credibility as an actor that can influence the framework of governance and collaboration needed for economic action as well as for peace. The fact that Janier Solana, one of the authors of this development of European foreign policy, attended the Italian Ambassadors’ Conference held last July in Rome was a confirmation of the dedication with which Italy has worked towards the creation of a Europe as international actor.
2003 will be a very important year for our European policy. The Italian Presidency of the European Council will take place just as the process of institutional change under discussion today at the Convention matures. I believe that, in this regard, the ambassadors at the Ambassadors’ Conference had an extremely valid, highly motivating experience when they heard the description made by Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini and Vice Chairman of the Convention, Giuliano Amato, of the most significant aspects of this work in progress.
The prospect of the Italian Presidency has for months mobilised all the energies of our diplomacy, at its hub and in its foreign network. We are working to ensure that Italy’s central role in the European Union is confirmed thanks to relevant, effective initiatives, and by a combination of realism in assessment of situations, ability to propose and implement solutions, and far-reaching vision. We have so far considered ourselves committed to an important group effort that will put our central and outer structure, our political sense and our ability to negotiate in favour of a consistent strategy to the test.
THE ROLE OF DIPLOMACY IN A MARKET ECONOMYItalian foreign policy is strongly oriented towards Europe, but it is also strongly global. We should remember in this regard that in the present phase, all Governments use diplomacy as a basic instrument to manage globalisation. The world-wide extension of the system of international relations with constant flows of capital, products, people, knowledge and market integration has broadened competition between countries and raised the risk of exclusion and estrangement from the mainstream of world development. In the era of globalisation, it is diplomacy that must locate the most valid options to face the challenge of competition, identify and develop the most advantageous partnerships, and find new space on international negotiating tables. All this provides the Government with options for choosing the most fruitful policies for the country’s progress.
On this global horizon, where success in pursuit of national interests means that responsibilities must be assumed, the United Nations is the basic framework for these operations. Italy makes a substantial, decisive contribution to UN activity, both financially (Italy is the sixth largest contributor) and from the point of view of participation and peace missions where Italy ranks third in terms of military forces sent on UN or Security Council authorised missions.
We thus quite legitimately believe that this commitment should correspond to an Italian presence on the Security Council, the UN’s highest-ranking body. We still hope to promote a reform of the present the Security Council, an organization that obviously cannot continue to reflect the same state of affairs that has typified the world for the fifty years since the UN was founded. Today however, our diplomacy’s most urgent priority in this sector to promote throughout all our international relations Italy’s candidacy as a non-permanent member for the period 2007-2008.
Both at a bilateral and multilateral level, modern diplomacy must provide the capacity for innovative analysis, well-timed action, and strong manifestations in external action, even in terms of communication. Most of all in a democracy, it is not enough for professionals to work efficiently and effectively.
Professionals must also be able to transmit the meaning and purpose of their actions to the country as a whole. The purpose is as much to involve the public in an inclusive project that concerns us all because it affects us and our daily lives, as to provide citizens the information that is their right.
This might well be where the strongest, most relentless need for transformation resides, not only on the international scene but also within a country whose dynamic nature and complex, variegated needs must be represented throughout the world. Thus, many overly schematic distinctions between exterior and interior, public and private, political affairs and economic affairs are not commensurate with the times.
The reform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ central structures that took effect in 2000 was an important step in this direction. And we intend to make further, concrete commitment for renewal.The ground where, as the Prime Minister has quite properly stated, we believe it necessary to bring about further reforms, is in the economy and more concretely, that area used to support a more incisive international presentation of the Italy system as a whole, and not only its products.
If it is true that foreign policy is a single entity embracing sectors ranging from security to culture, from protection of our fellow citizens abroad to development aid it is on the terrain of the economy that the vital questions of innovation and competition are played out. The international status we seek must be conquered with facts and not only claimed at a political level.
Support for exports is the most important dimension in the work of those who protect the interests of Italy in the world, but this must be included in a much broader framework. There is no doubt that trade has a close strategic relationship to investments. A purely commercial presence in a certain market is fragile and ephemeral if it is not combined with an ability for penetration and collaboration with local actors in the area of investments.
It is clear that the active participants of a market economy are the businesses and entrepreneurs with the activism and courage that are often the basis of extraordinary success stories in our country.But as experience in other countries has taught us, in a complex world with difficult local conditions, it is inconceivable to have individual operations venture into unknown areas without the adequate support of those representing the country as a whole and from whom they expect advanced, modern, well-timed services.
I am referring to information on the economic reality of markets and existing opportunities. But I am also referring to concrete assistance, targeted to individual cases and operators, in particular in their contacts with local authorities who still have a decisive role to play in choosing legal frameworks, priorities and conditions, even in market economies.
For a long time and with ongoing dedication, Italy’s diplomatic network and the other bodies in the sector (the Ministry of Production, ICE) have been working to promote the Italy system. But along with the enthusiasm and expertise of individuals, today we need a more appropriate operational structure, that avoids overlapping and duplication on one hand and closes the gaps in the area of the initiatives taken. This structure must maximise the yield from available financial and human resources. Furthermore, it must allow citizens, in this case Italian businessmen interested in international markets, to identify the parties and services that can meet their needs with clarity and assurance.
REINFORCING THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE FARNESINAOur long-term strategy to complete the reform by perfecting the innovations introduced in 2000, is aimed at modifying regulations so as to rationalise the public structures supporting the activity of Italian businesses abroad. While waiting for the opportune conditions, including financing, that will allow us to reach this goal, Italian diplomacy is already committed to creating dynamic coordination between the existing public structures and private agencies which will meet periodically.
I would like to point to another significant change in our methodology that follows this line of thought. We should not forget that our duties are not only diplomatic, but also diplomatic-consular. As we continue looking after the interests of our fellow Italians abroad, it is clear that we must also see our Diaspora as a resource and not just a problem. It is a resource in terms of the spread of Italy’s culture and image in the world, and it is also a resource from an economic-commercial point of view. For this reason, the work of our consulates is must be transformed (a project that was discussed during the consular meeting, significantly held at the Farnesina right after the ambassadors’ conference). Today, consulates are seen as a close network of centres linking our communities as well as an confirmation of an Italian presence whose characteristics in the fields of culture and commerce must be viewed and managed with consistency and concord.
We are taking a series of steps to reinforce the instruments available to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that we can better dedicate ourselves to these goals. Although numbers are important (and our first action will be to fill the positions still available), our greatest efforts will be raise quality. This means quality in the methods used in particular with a very high level of ICT of which the Ministry can be proud but also, and I would say primarily, quality in our human resources. We are committed to recruiting qualified personnel, in particular new generations of diplomats to train in new ways, responding to the needs of a modern country and a world in rapid evolution. We cannot hide that our ambition, as we confirm our pledge to serve the interests of the country and its citizens, is to ensure allocations to the budget of the Foreign Ministry that are more in keeping with the levels of the countries that we intend to address, and at any rate much higher than the present 0.30% of the State budget which makes squaring the circle so very difficult.
I would like to conclude by observing that a great deal is said today about the problems and challenges of a difficult, complex and often dangerous world. But we should clarify immediately that the work of our diplomacy is not done in a climate of pessimism or gloom.
We have no reason to light heartedly underrate the risks hanging over all of the world’s civilisation. Still, if after analysing the framework where we are called on to act, we focus on our countrymen, our people and their determination and capacities, we are more than justified to see our diplomacy in a positive light. Italian diplomacy is active and constructive because it is based on our certainty that we belong to a nation that knows how to work, how to build, and how to keep abreast with the times while fighting against attempts at narrow-mindedness and conservation.